Our Challenge to Remember



No matter what our age, the “Information Age” as some have called it, bombards us with new or recycled information second by second on a broad array of media devices. As a result of the fast movement of unfolding information, we tend to not recall parts and pieces and often end up with an overview that may be shaded based on our recall, our perception, or our worldview.


At present as the horizon appears to be darkening and an endless stream of information of injustice, evil, deceit, and moral decay assails us; we can be tempted to think that evil reaches its tentacles into everything. That can be and often is true, but should we despair and wring our hands when that occurs?


Perhaps we have forgotten (if we ever knew) that God can bring about good from evil. That truth echoes throughout the entire Bible.


 The writer of Hebrews 13:8 (TLB) reminds us:


“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”


His ultimate purposes and ultimate justice are always accomplished and will be as we near the hour of His return.


Modern stories rarely allow us to see evil used for good, but the Bible gives us a different view.


atmosphere-beautiful-cloudburst-531318One of the most famous examples is that of Joseph in the book of Genesis. You probably remember this favorite youngest son of Jacob’s (then called Israel) who was always sharing about his dreams. His brothers became jealous of not only the multi-colored coat his father had given him, but of his favored position with their father as well.


When they could take it no longer, Joseph was thrown into a pit and left for dead until some slave traders came by and offered to buy him. The brothers couldn’t resist the 20 pieces of silver and soon Joseph was sold and on his way to Egypt. All sounds pretty dreadful as evil abounds, but it was there that God would work on Joseph’s character and refine his gift of dreams and their interpretation. He would bring great good from what the brothers meant for harm and evil. Joseph would be used to save the Jewish nation when famine threatened to obliterate them.


Later when the favor of the Pharaoh Joseph preserved was dead and Joseph was gone as well, the Egyptians held this same Jewish nation in slavery. Nearly 200 years had passed and when all the male children of Israel were doomed to destruction through an abundance of evil, Moses was saved and later God plundered the Egyptians to provide for this beaten down people and lead them into a Promised Land.


The Promised Land was not so easy to claim due to the lack of faith and the power of the enemies before Israel. Jericho appeared impenetrable, but a harlot named Rahab hid the spies sent to scout out the land and the result was a great victory when the walls of Jericho fell without a single arrow coming against it as the children of Israel marched around the city walls.


Time and again the Bible shares stories with us that should remind us that God uses evil for ultimate good.


I also don’t think we need be undone by the legal maxim: “justice delayed is justice denied.”  Everything that happens on, above, or under the earth will be brought to ultimate justice.


The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk complained to God about the sins of immorality, lawlessness, and idolatry all around him. Then God spoke to him and let him know that it would be the evil enemy nation of Babylon that would be used to bring justice to the evildoers of Judah that Habakkuk was lamenting.


The believers in Jesus when He walked the earth were nearly upended. It appeared evil triumphed when the Savior they believed was there to be crowned king was brutally IMG_1943murdered on a Roman cross at the hands of the Pharisees and a traitor (Judas) who was among the first disciples chosen by Jesus. But it was this evil that brought about the ultimate good of eternal salvation.


As shadows deepen and unthinkable evil seems to increase, our challenge is to remember the Lord is not only a God of love, grace, and mercy, but He is also a God of righteousness and justice.


Remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18 (NLT):


“ For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”


Luke would also remind us of where our focus should be:


“But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  Luke 21:28 (NASB)


What is that redemption? 


His return for those who believe in Him.









Life or Death … Our Choice


In the past few weeks I have read and reviewed several books with a theme of looking at the impact and power of words. When I see several newly released books looking at this topic, it causes me to reflect on what the Lord is seeking to amplify for us as He highlights a topic.


Too often despite our somehow knowing the importance of words, we use them casually without thought or even sometimes care about how they will impact the hearer of those words whether in oral or written form.


Perhaps we forget the wisdom of Proverbs 18:21 (TPT):


“Your words are so powerful that they will kill or give life, and the talkative person will reap the consequences.”


 Proverbs speak often about the power and impact of words. Look at what Proverbs 18:4 (AMP) shows us:


“The words of a man’s mouth are like deep waters [copious and difficult to fathom]; the fountain of [mature, godly] wisdom is like a bubbling stream [sparkling, fresh, pure, and life-giving].”


 Our words can crush a spirit or encourage it even if we are not specifically speaking about spiritual things. Do we really embrace what Debbie Kitterman calls “a lifestyle of encouragement” in her recent book?


 Words once spoken cannot be erased.


cliff-daylight-environment-451817Whatever we meant or thought we were saying, once our words leave our mouth, pen, or keyboard they create an impact. If we discover they have hurt or caused misunderstanding, we can clarify and even seek forgiveness. But the sad truth is, the original words are often not forgotten even if forgiveness is given and understanding gained.


I am guessing that many of you can recall words that were spoken to you years ago. Some may have been a balm to your heart and others left a scar that lingers even if the wound was healed.


It can be easy to forget that the words we use may be defined differently by the hearer due to previous experience, culture, or age. No matter what a dictionary may say, the meaning we have within us may not be the same as that of the hearer or reader. Of course, the dictionary is also updated as culture and time alters the meaning of words.  And some words disappear from use over time.


Words are like fire.


Fire can destroy or it can warm.


It can create light or shroud with black clouds and ash.


Jonathan Merritt makes reference to this in his latest book:


 “Words impact our emotions and influence the paths we pursue. Whoever created the famous line about sticks and stones must never have been bullied. In our most vulnerable moments, the words spoken to us, about us, and over us can pulverize our souls until we drown in tears. Words can snap a human in two without spilling blood.”


We might be tempted to think that the way to resolve this problem is simply not to speak (or write) lest we hurt, harm, sow misunderstanding, or some other unintended thing. But the truth is that the lack of words spoken to, about, or over us in positive ways is essential as well.


God meant for us to speak.  His first command to Adam was to create a vocabulary of words to name the animals. It is, in fact, our ability to speak that sets us apart in all of His creation.


Consider this quote from Merritt’s book:


“Alfred Wallace, a friend of Darwin’s who may have been the first to actually articulate evolutionary theory, noted that the brain’s ability to reason and speak was so advanced beyond the needs of human survival that natural selection was inadequate to account for it.”


 In other words, language and our capacity to create and speak language stands in opposition to Darwin’s theory and refutes it.


Words are a means of relationship with God and one another. IMG_2973


It is little wonder that Satan would desire to use words to divide, confuse, and discourage us. He whispers such words to us and he also tempts us to use words in ways that accomplish his ends…sometimes without even realizing it.


Scripture reminds us of the importance of encouraging one another.


“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)


“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)


 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as it fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)


How those words to encourage are received will be influenced by whether our actions match them. Words (even those said with care) without matching actions will leave the receiver believing the actions more than the words.


Our actions reveal more of what we carry in our hearts. They are harder to disguise than the words we might choose to say.


Our words reflect who we are, but more importantly…they reflect Him.



Learning to Speak God from Scratch

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Recently Jonathan Merritt sent me an email letting me know about his recent book, Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing and How We Can Revive ThemI was intrigued, but paused for a few seconds before buying the book because I was already in the midst of several book launches and had another book or two slated for review.


I am so glad I hit the button to buy the book. If you were to look at my copy (not likely), you would discover it is liberally highlighted and there are numerous flags on pages I especially want to revisit. That says a lot about how this book has provoked a lot of thought. Beyond that, it has inspired and challenged me to contemplate words with fresh eyes and understanding (especially sacred words).


As believers we tend to know a fair number of sacred words. The bravest of us speak them with regularity, but Jonathan Merritt’s new book exposes a truth we need to consider carefully. How often do we really use such words, feel comfortable with our understanding of their meaning, or have a clue about how often we speak or write in such religious clichés that the words have lost their significance to us and are hard to interpret for others.


Words matter. They have significance and how we express them can make all the difference.


As Jonathan writes:


When we lose our spiritual vocabulary, we lose much more than words. We lose the power of speaking grace, forgiveness, love, and justice for others.”


 In this book some new research by the Barna Group is cited that should cause us all to take notice. Let me quote just a few points of what the research shows:


  • Millions of Americans – more than three-quarters of them – are not speaking God often


  • More than one fifth of the respondents admit they have not had a spiritual conversation at all in the last year


  • Only 7 percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters on about a once-a-week basis


  • Only 13 percent of practicing Christians had a spiritual conversation more than fifty times last year (This means that only one in eight identifying Christians speak God with regular frequency.)


  • Younger generations are having more spiritual conversations than older generations


  • Millennials are having more conversations about religion and spirituality than any other generation


  • The older you are, the less likely it is that you will have a spiritual conversation


What did Barna discover and Jonathan share about why we are not engaging in such conversations as much as we once did?


“The most common reasons given for not engaging in conversations about religion and spirituality appear to fall into three broad categories: indifference, ignorance, and avoidance.”


 Jonathan points out that theologian Marcus Borg noted before he died in 2015 “Christian words had lost their meaning and power in modern society – in part due to ‘Christian illiteracy.’ People were using words they didn’t understand…”


Before you disagree with the research or Jonathan, it’s important to take a clear-eyed look at how often we speak in Christian jargon and clichés without much thought if we are speaking God these days. It may well explain why those who are not believers have challenges understanding who we are or what we are saying. It can almost be like we are a part of a secret club with secret words that only someone in the club understands. But if the club member is asked to define the word with clarity to anyone who asks, most often the answer will leave the hearer scratching his or her head.


Jonathan gives words to one of the problems:


“…even devout believers who speak God with apparent ease – define religious words using religious words. A series of questions about what they mean leads back to where the discussion began.

 The words we choose and the way we use them matter. But we do not often quiet ourselves long enough to ask, What am I saying when I’m saying what I’m saying.”


As believers perhaps it’s time we stop speaking in circles.


Doing so will challenge the truth of what we believe and we may not feel comfortable with that. We like our oft-used words and phrases that can sound like we are certain of what we are saying and meaning. To “start from scratch” will require that we need a bit of courage at the outset, but offers the possibility of a much deeper understanding and level of intimacy with the Lord than ever before.


“Human beings speak more than fifteen thousand words on an average day, but we rarely stop to consider the definitions or connotations of the terms themselves.”


You may not agree with everything Jonathan writes, but you’ll miss a significant book that opens new windows of understanding beyond your regular lexicon, your concordance, or your Greek or Hebrew dictionary.


I won’t open my copy to show you the highlighting, but the pic below will give you a glimpse of how many flags I used to mark pages to revisit.

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The Power of a Second Chance




It can be so easy for us to be upended when we muck something up even when we try not to do that. I think we have all been there and it’s clear that we start having it happen very early in our lives. I am not sure when your first time happened and I am not sure I recall the very first one for me, but I can point to a lengthy list over the course of my lifetime.


It can start with using a crayon or marker on the wall instead of the paper we were given or when we tell our first fib (a.k.a. lie) and get caught. Maybe it happens when we go farther on our bicycle than we knew we were allowed to go and mom, dad, or a neighbor board-broken-builder-209235sees us ten blocks from home.


It can come up when we were sure we had all the right textbooks at home to write that paper or study for an exam and then discover we didn’t…AGAIN! How many times did our mom or dad remind us about this very thing?


Sometimes it shows up when we make a promise with all the right intentions and then set it aside because we forget or because the promise isn’t convenient or someone or something of greater interest comes along.


How often do we want a second chance to do better? How often do we wish we could erase that moment when we faltered and messed up again?


There are some times when we cannot regain that opportunity for a “do over” even though we may receive forgiveness and grace. We can’t go back and stop at the stop sign black-and-white-depressed-depression-48566we sailed through and resulted in an accident or a ticket. We can’t say “I love you” to the person we didn’t take time to see before they were called home to be with the Lord.


But because grace comes with refills as my writer friend, Lisa, recently wrote, we also often get a second chance.


Second chances are powerful and important to heed.


Consider one of many we see in scripture. Paul, the great persecutor turned true missionary of the gospel, is headed out on another missionary journey with Barnabas. The encouraging Barnabas wants to take John Mark along with them. He sees his potential and believes he will be an asset. But Paul is still miffed at John Mark because he left them in Pamphylia and didn’t continue on with them on another journey. Barnabas is none too happy about Paul’s response so these two separate and Barnabas heads off in one direction and Paul chooses Silas and goes off in another.


Now I know this is a New Testament story, but many of us could change the names and IMG_2850places and put some modern day believers in their places.


How blessed John Mark must have felt that Barnabas chose him over the esteemed Paul. After all, Barnabas and Paul had a pretty tight relationship.  But Barnabas saw the possibilities in John Mark and gave him a second chance.


I wonder how any of us would respond in the same place.


But guess what happens as fruit of Barnabas’s decision?


By the time Paul writes his letters to the Colossians and Timothy, he commends John Mark (often just called Mark). Peter also makes mention of him in his first letter. And then the Gospel of Mark…yes, Mark wrote that!


Second chances are powerful indeed and we should never fail to take advantage of them.


Beyond this, most of us should not cease to express gratitude each day for how often the Lord has not given up on us and given us a second chance.


Our challenge is whether or not we allow Him to show us the possibility in someone else and like Barnabas, give someone a second chance.


I wonder what would have happened to Mark if Barnabas had not done so.





Wandering and Losing



One of the things I find most frustrating is when I misplace or lose something. Oddly enough it isn’t always something that others would consider important and yet, I cannot seem to rest until I locate it. I retrace steps and look in all the usual and not so usual places.


Sometimes I can find it without a major delay, but other times it can be a long time of searching and wondering. There are also times when I never find it, but even then I pause from time to time and go back and check a place or two.


Two years ago we purchased some lovely votive candles in pretty little holders to put on IMG_1779our deck for the summer. (My husband would tell you I love little lights twinkling no matter what time of the year it may be.) At the end of that summer we boxed them up and stored them for last summer. Could we find them?  NO!  We searched in every conceivable place to no avail and I was more than a little frustrated and we spent the whole summer without them.


Then early this summer as I was looking under our basement steps for something I saw a box. I wasn’t sure what was in it and decided to open it to see. There were the long lost votive candles in their sweet little holders. I am sure we looked in this area last summer, but this box eluded us.


In the fall of 2016, we were traveling to Vermont on vacation. I was wearing one of those pairs of earrings purchased in a jewelry store versus the local mall kiosk.  At some point as we were driving I touched my ear and realized it was gone. We stopped the car and searched everywhere in the car and all the things in the area where I was sitting. Sadly we never found it. The earrings matched a necklace our daughter had given me and I was upset not to have the matching earrings I had purchased.


When we arrived home I searched the online store of the jewelry store where I had purchased them and discovered they still carried the exact same earrings. I couldn’t rest blonde-child-curious-33126without buying them. Now I have 3 of those earrings and even though it is almost 2 years since the one was lost, I still keep thinking it is tucked into a crevice somewhere and we’ll find it.


Think how much time I spent looking for these things! But sometimes we lose someone, not something.


Once when our daughter was little, we were shopping in a large department store with lots of racks and rounders with clothes hanging down. Our daughter had been beside me while I browsed, but then I noticed she was missing. I was frantic and started calling her name and searching everywhere. I finally discovered her in the midst of clothes on one of the rounders as she had decided to do some exploring of her own.


There was also one beautiful fall day when we were visiting our son and his family in Franklin, TN, for their annual downtown fall festival. It’s always a lot of fun in this lovely town with unique shops and items to discover. For the festival streets are blocked off and various booths of all sorts of foods and items fill the streets. There are also music venues to enjoy…after all it’s right next door to Nashville.


Our grandson was probably only about 4 years old and had been enjoying the time with our son, his wife, and his older sister who was about 8, and my husband and I. The streets and sidewalks were crammed with people as we slowly made our way among them, stopping to look or sample one thing or another. Suddenly we discovered this grandson was not with us. We were frantic!  It wasn’t just that he was lost, but we didn’t know if all these people would pose a risk we didn’t even want to imagine.



We split up and started searching and finally discovered him sitting on the top row of chairs of risers set up for a concert that was to begin. He must have been waiting there for the musicians. We might not ever know. It was a terrifying time for us to consider what might happen to him and it took far too long for us to find him.


Something or someone can only be lost if they belong to us.


And when we discover the loss, we go searching.


Consider the parable of the lost lamb in Matthew 18:11-14 (TPT):


 “The Son of Man has come to give life to anyone who is lost. 12 Think of it this way: If a man owns a hundred sheep and one lamb wanders away and is lost, won’t he leave the ninety-nine grazing on the hillside and go out and thoroughly search for the one lost lamb? 13 And if he finds his lost lamb, he rejoices over it, more than over the ninety-nine who are safe. 14 Now you should understand that it is never the desire of your heavenly Father that a single one of these humble believers should be lost.”


 How much the Father loves us when we wander away, go off exploring, become seduced to follow someone else, or get tempted to try life on our own!


Many of us have done just that at some point in our lives, even after we knew Him. Some of you have someone you love that is in the midst of that season now.


Consider how much time you take to search for something or someone that is lost and the ache it causes you to never give up until you have located that something or someone.


Now…multiply that to infinity and remember the Father’s heart does not rest until one who is His is found again.